Thursday, January 12, 2017

Detective Comics #578 (1987)

Detective Comics #578 (September, 1987)
Batman: Year Two - Chapter Four: ... So Shall Ye Reap..."
Writer - Mike W. Barr
Artist - Todd McFarlane
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Letterer - Todd Klein
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

Let's wrap up our coverage of Year Two... will Batman exact revenge on Joe Chill?  Will Gordon forgive Batman for pulling the wool over his eyes?  Will Bruce and Rachel marry and leave Gotham far behind... well, yeah... probably not that one.


We open with Joe Chill checking in with his masters.  They are rather displeased to hear that not only the Reaper got away... but that the Batman still breathes air as well.  Chill is semi-apologetic, and tells Mr. Morritz that he'll get'em next time.  We shift scenes to the Reaper as he spies a heavyset older bookworm walking down an alley.  This is apparently a police informer known as "Blinky".  The Reaper puts the fear of God in the poor fool, and feeds him some intel to pass along to the Gotham fuzz.  There's gonna be some crime at the Brayshaw Warehouse this Friday... and ya didn't hear it from me... well, The Reaper... ya didn't hear it from him, cuz if you say you did... you're gonna die.

Next we head to Wayne Manor where "Mawster" Bruce is getting ready for a date with Ms. Caspian.  I dunno why Alfred is suddenly speaking with such a heavy accent... maybe he got punched in the mouth recently.  Bruce takes Rachel out to a hoi-poloi Chinese restaurant... and get this, proposes to her.  Like, for marriage... he arranges it so her engagement ring would be inside her fortune cookie.  Preeeeetty tacky... but, sweet, I guess?  She says yes, by the way.

Before we know it, it's Friday.  Commissioner Gordon has led the GCPD down to Brayshaw Warehouse... which, not surprisingly, is surrounded by armed men.  The cops make quick work of the sentries... by, ya know... killing them... and enter.  There is a firefight between the cops and mobbers... in the distraction of which, The Reaper starts... reaping.  It's a surprisingly bloody scene... I wasn't quite expecting it to be so drippy here.

Batman is soon on the scene, but the officers do not see him as a friendly presence.  They catch him in a spotlight, and open fire.  He swoops down to put out the lights... and does a double noggin-knocker on a pair of officers.  Now it gets weird... he then commandeers a police van, which he drives directly into a crowd of officers!  That doesn't seem right, does it?  You'd figure Batman would probably try and avoid driving into a crowd of cops, right?  Even if to get to The Reaper.  Anyhoo... not sure if there were any casualties here... gonna assume there weren't.

Inside, after presumably running down The Reaper... Joe Chill starts blasting at the van's gas tank... at least, that's what I'm assuming, since it causes a grand explosion.  Everyone is thrown clear... bodies are scattered everywhere... with a few exceptions.  Gordon approaches an injured thug... and learns that Batman was only working with them to get the Reaper.

Shortly... the Bat-Signal illuminates the Gotham City sky for the first time in a little while.  Bruce... well, he doesn't respond.  He's got some other things to attend to... starting with his fiance, Rachel.  He heads to her house... and kind of beats around the bush about something he's going to have to do.  She tells him that hes a good man, and anything he feels he must do, is probably the right thing to do.

Well, Rae... ya see, the thing of it is... he's got the dude who killed his parents stowed away at a top secret hideout... and he intends to kill him.  He wakes Chill up, and leads him to Crime Alley... Chill doesn't quite understand... which only makes this all the better.  He killed the Waynes, and it doesn't even register.  It didn't even matter enough for it to come to mind right away.  That's cold, Chill... pun intended?  I dunno... anyhoo, Batman decides to give him a bit of a refresher... and unmasks to punctuate his point!

There is a struggle... well, no not really... Bruce just pummels the hell outta Chill.  He drops him to his knees... and places his own gun to his head.  Chill is... cool (again, pun!)... he doesn't think Bruce has it in him... he almost dares him to pull the trigger.  Before he can, however... the Reaper blows Joe's brains out.  By looking at the picture, Chill's head is akin to a watermelon that Gallagher Sledge-O-Matic'ed... so much blood!

Well, we've got ourselves a bit of a pickle here, no?  Now The Reaper knows Batman is really Bruce Wayne.  A chase is on, and Batman is led to the skyscraper that has been under construction this whole storyline.  All the while, The Reaper is taunting Batman... referring to their battle as "ironic"... which Bruce doesn't quite understand.  The battle atop the unfinished building... and Bruce is able to get one of The Reaper's scythes... which gives us a panel that is the exact same as the cover of this issue.  Really, now?

This is really just the cover, right?

They continue to fight... to the point in which The Reaper loses his footing.  He now hangs from the girders... and his mask falls off.  Bruce now understands what he meant by "ironic".  Batman reaches out to save Mr. Caspian... who only smiles.  He tells Batman that tonight he's proven that he has it in him to be a killer.  He feels that the Batman is a proper replacement for his Reaper... and so, he lets go... and falls to his death.

We enter our epilogue with Batman "burying" Joe Chill's pistol in the basement of the new Wayne Foundation Building... never to be seen again.  He then visits with his betrothed... who, due to her father's transgressions, feels that her true calling is, in fact, the convent... and thus ends their whirlwind engagement.

Our final scene is in a seedy Gotham neighborhood.  Bruce Wayne and Dr. Leslie Thompkins are standing before a building that is having some signage put up... it is to be Leslie's new clinic... The Thomas Wayne Memorial Clinic.  We end with Bruce telling Alfred to wait for Leslie, as he dons his gear and takes to the Gotham skies.


Well, this wrapped up as well as it could have been expected to.  All the toys were put back in the box... and I suppose if you were going to insert a story into Batman's early crime-fighting career, this works just fine.  It takes care of the "Joe Chill problem" for the post-Crisis landscape, and gives us a look at both a (relatively) inexperienced and somewhat desperate Batman.

My main issues here are... issue, really... stems from the scene in which Batman is driving directly into the Police Officers.  That just doesn't seem Batmanly to me.  He could have (and, hell, might have) killed or injured a number of innocent cops right then... and for what?  A dramatic entrance?  It's not like he couldn't have gotten in otherwise, right?  Just seems like they wanted a big action bit there... and this is what they came up with.

Bruce is robbed of his final vengeance on Joe Chill... which is really the only way it could have went.  We needed to get Chill out of the picture... and it wouldn't have been proper to have Batman pull the trigger.  I can't say for certain whether he would or not... I'd like to think he wouldn't... though, at that point, he'd already unmasked.  Something would have had to give.  I keep going back to the ending of Joker's Last Laugh from around the turn of the century, where Nightwing killed the Joker... and Batman had to resuscitate him.  I'd figure if he'd bring the Joker back from the brink of death... there's little chance he'd murder Joe Chill in cold blood.

The Reaper "doing the deed" is fine... I think by the time the trigger was pulled we knew he wasn't long for the world.  I mean, he saw Batman without his mask too!  Can't have a baddie in the know running around the DC Universe... can we?  Ahem, anyhoo... his passing was fairly poignant as well.  He seemed to believe he was dying a martyr, only after finding a replacement as ruthless and relentless as himself.  It shines a strange light on Batman as well... making him look inside to discern whether or not that might be true.  Ya know, while on the subject... would Batman have killed The Reaper is given the opportunity?

The Bruce and Rachel relationship... another thing that had to "go away" before we closed out this tale... ended, kind of abruptly, no?  Seems that Ms. Caspian might be prone to act rashly... Bruce raises his eyebrows, she quits the convent... her dad is a murderous vigilante, back to the nunnery.  I mean, by this point she and Bruce weren't just dating... Bruce had proposed marriage, and she accepted!  They were engaged... and she just walked away!  Mustn't have been that strong a relationship.  If my research is right, she'd next appear in an early 90's prestige format Bat-book that features an all-new all-different Reaper... whose identity I won't reveal here, just in case we discuss that one somewhere down the line.

Overall... really glad I revisited this story.  As I've mentioned, it's been years since I'd read this (I first read it in collected edition near the turn of the century)... I may as well have been going in fresh.  Not a perfect story, but enjoyable.  I think most Bat-fans would get something out of it... well worth tracking down and giving it a read.


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